Casden Properties proposes condo project near the Grove

Nearly four years after the community beat back a proposal to build a 300-unit condo project near the Grove shopping center, complaining it was too dense and would generate too much traffic, the developer has come up with a new plan: Another 300-unit condo project, this one with taller buildings and about three times as many units set aside for senior citizens.

The redesigned project by Casden Properties will be presented to community leaders next week, and developer Alan Casden hopes the enhanced senior citizen component will win him support this time around.

But the proposal is coming under scrutiny from neighbors over familiar issues -- traffic, density and whether Casden has met an original condition to turn the site into an assisted living center.

The Beverly Hills developer known for building the luxurious Palazzo Westwood Village wants to demolish an existing Ross Dress for Less building at the southeast corner of 3rd Street and Ogden Drive and construct four buildings, the tallest at 13 stories. The site is known for being hit by a methane gas explosion in March 1985.

The development would include 75 rental units for low-income seniors, and another 75 would be reserved for seniors and sold at the market rate. The remaining units would be sold at market rate. A parking structure with 662 spaces would also be built.

“This is what we have to do to make the project work and we think it’s a quality project,” said Howard Katz, vice president of community development for Casden.

If approved, the homes could be completed by 2014.

But winning public support might prove challenging. Principal Ashley Parker of nearby Hancock Park Elementary School is worried the project will add too many more students to the campus and worsen congestion.

“Traffic is already a problem,” she said. “I don’t know what would happen if more cars came along.”

Parker said she plans to follow the project closely.

Many residents in the area expected Casden to build an assisted living center at the site, part of an agreement the developer inherited when it bought several parcels in the area from Park La Brea in the 1990s.

Under the agreement, the city allowed Casden to build the 1,597-unit Palazzo development. The developer was then expected to build 216 units for seniors, including 43 for low-income residents, on the Ross parcel.

“Why do they get to put more density, more height on the parcel rather than honor the original agreement to build a lower-density senior center?” asked Jeff Jacobberger, chairman of the Mid-City West Community Council.

The council will hear the developer’s plan Wednesday at 543 N. Fairfax Ave.

Katz said Casden took all community concerns into account in the redesign. The new proposal will add fewer than 50 commutes in the morning and actually decrease traffic in the evening. He also said the 1990s agreement to build an assisted living center expired in 2008.

The developer is expected to submit a traffic study to the city’s planning department next month.

Compared to the 2006 version -- which set aside 43 units for seniors -- Casden’s new proposal “looks like a whole different project in our mind,” said Renee Weitzer, chief of staff for planning for Councilman Tom LaBonge, whose district includes the condo project.